Paris architecture

paris architecture

CITY PAGE: Architecture of Paris


The architectural history of Paris can be divided into four time periods:

Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, and Classical.  The Roman period of

architecture was symmetrical and organized.  Most Roman buildings were made

of concrete, which simulated limestone.  Roman architecture almost always had

columns that gave its buildings a majestic, dominating feeling.  The Medieval

period of architecture was very different from the Roman period.  Buildings

were erected haphazardly and streets were narrow and unplanned.  It was a

period of regression that was followed by the Renaissance.  The Renaissance

style in Paris was inspired by the Italian Renaissance.  The architecture of

the Renaissance was symmetrical and proportional, much like Roman

architecture.  During the Renaissance period Paris imitated the architecture

Paris began as a Roman city called Lutetia.  It was established on what is

Roman building utilized arches and vaults.  Columns were no longer needed to

support the roofs of buildings but were still used to create a sense of

strength and grandeur.  The Roman cities were grids with many public spaces.


During the medieval period Paris became cluttered, disorganized and

claustrophobic.  This chaos was the result of "organic growth."  There was no

layout plan for the city and people simply erected buildings where they

wished.  Paris was maze-like, with narrow, curving, unplanned streets.

During the architectural period of the medieval city, two types of buildings

emerged: the gabled house and the hфtel.  Most Parisians lived in gabled

houses.  Their facades were built and designed by carpenters.  Artisans of

lesser skill completed the work on the timber frame.  The gabled houses were

simple but not devoid of ornamentation.  The variety in the woodwork around

the door frames and the first-floor ceilings gave each house a unique

quality, even though they were practically identical in shape and layout.  In

At the end of the fifteenth century Paris began to be influenced by the

architecture of the Italian Renaissance.  It was not until the early

sixteenth century, behind Italy by a hundred years, that Paris began to adopt

the Renaissance style of architecture wholesale.  The Renaissance city had

deliberate planning and a predetermined layout.  Following this trend, Paris

started to become more organized and coherent.  Because of their complexity,

these plans required architects, who therefore became a larger part of city


One of the first important Renaissance projects

was the reconstruction of the

Pont de Notre Dame, the bridge that connected the Ile de la Citй to the Left

Bank of the Seine.  The new bridge embodied many of the cardinal

characteristics of the period: it was very wide, with orderly houses on

either side, and it created a feeling of space and regularity.

The Renaissance style of architecture was advanced primarily by the patronage

of Franзois Ier (1515-1547).  He commissioned Italian architects to aid in

the revival of Paris.  The most important architect he hired was Sebastiano

Serlio (1475-1554), who designed the Grand Ferrare at Fontainbleau from

1544-1546.  The two most important aspects of Serlio’s buildings were

symmetry and proportion.

Parisian architecture didn’t just imitate Italian architecture during the

Renaissance period, it also began to develop its own style.  Under the

influence of Henry IV (1589-1610), three piazzi were built: the Place

The Renaissance was followed by a period of French classicism that continued

to fashion Paris until the twentieth century.


In the early 1600s, Paris still had not developed its own style of

architecture.  Parisian architecture still embodied the classical style of

the Ancient world and of the Italian Renaissance style.  Parisian

architecture began to evolve its own style when uniqueness and grace were

added to the regularity and proportion of the Ancient and Renaissance styles.

This was the birth of French classicism, a balance between tradition and

novelty, that the country could call its own.  As French classicism

flourished, interest in Italian architecture and architects declined.  The

Crown, especially Louis XIV (1643-1715), was enthusiastic about the

architectural innovations that were taking place in Paris and used its

patronage to encourage classicism.  Classical buildings were made with top

quality materials, were symmetrical and proportional, and had many of the

same regal and imposing qualities as Roman and Renaissance buildings.

The architecture of Paris maintained a balance between continuity and

variety.  Variety was provided by the unique visions of architects and their

patrons.  Continuity was achieved through adherence to prescribed theories

and concepts taught at the Acadйmie Royale d’Architecture.

The Acadйmie Royale d’Architecture was founded in 1671.  It helped with the

continuing expansion of the architectural profession by providing classes for

students interested in the field.  As a result of the success of the

Acadйmie, all the major buildings in Paris were now completely designed by

Category: Architecture

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